The University of Maine Summer Music Festival is bringing together two summer traditions – baseball and musical theater – with the new musical comedy “Johnny Baseball,” which will open Friday, Aug. 3.
“Johnny Baseball” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 3, 4, 10, 11 and at 2 p.m. on Aug, 5 and 12 in UMaine’s Hauck Auditorium.
The play, which is appearing in Orono as a final preparation before it goes to Broadway, is produced by UMaine’s School of Performing Arts in collaboration with New York City-based playwright Richard Dresser and Tony Award-nominated composers Rob and Willie Reale, who also composed the musical “A Year with Frog and Toad.”
“I met playwright Richard Dresser about a year and a half ago in New Haven, and he offered us the opportunity to help develop the show before it opens on Broadway,” says director Tom Mikotowicz, a professor of theater in UMaine’s School of Performing Arts. “Rick is a well-established playwright who has been produced on Broadway, as well as internationally, so I knew we should take him up on the offer.”
The musical was first produced and revised at American Repertory Theatre in June 2010. In preparation for the show, Mikotowicz went to New York City in January to view read-throughs with the potential Broadway cast and to meet the composers.
“Johnny Baseball” is about the Boston Red Sox and the legendary “Curse of the Bambino,” which fans believe prevented the team from winning the World Series title for 86 years. Although the common belief is that the team is cursed because it sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, the musical takes the position that the team’s struggles happened because the Red Sox were not yet willing to hire black players. The plot of the musical begins in 1918 and revolves around a fictional phenomenal pitcher named Johnny O’Brien, who gains the legendary name Johnny Baseball because of his throwing talent. Johnny, while out nightclubbing with Babe Ruth, falls in love with Daisy, a cabaret singer, and their relationship goes awry due to the pressure exerted by the Red Sox management for Johnny to not be seen in public with her. The story unfolds through the era of American civil rights and sports history to 2004 with current Red Sox player David “Big Papi” Ortiz.
“You don’t have to be a fan of baseball to enjoy the show with its comedy and great music,” Mikotowicz says.
The cast is made up of both professional and community actors. UMaine graduate Jon Hawley plays Johnny; recent Wright State University graduate Aziza Macklin plays Daisy; and Dimitri Moise, a junior at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, plays their son, Tim.
The musical director is Lud Hallman, the set designer is Dan Bilodeau and the costume designer is Lucia Williams-Young, all from the School of Performing Arts.
Tickets are $14 for adults and $7 for students and are available online at http://www.umaine.edu/spa or at the door. The musical contains some mature language.
Contact: Monique Hashey, (207) 581-4721; Jessica Bloch, (207) 581-3777